We see donation appeals everywhere these days - to help the people in Japan, to help the people in Darfur, to help the people in Haiti. What influences our decision to give? An interesting study comes from British psychologists, who analyzed how individuals respond to donation appeals in the wake of man-made disasters - like war - versus natural disasters. The authors around Hanna Zagefka from Royal Holloway University in London found that natural disasters elicit more donations than those caused by people. Their explanation: people tend to assign some blame to the victims of man-made disaster, while they blame no one for being overrun by a Tsunami.
Recent events in North Africa have intensified speculations about the role of traditional mass media as well as communication technologies in shaping political events and cultures across the world. Media influence on policy, foreign or domestic, has been the subject of some research, but is not generally taken seriously in the relevant disciplines. We have discussed on this blog before that the lack of systematic research and acknowledgement of media influence on policymaking may be due to the indirect nature of this effect. Media do not necessarily influence policymakers directly, but may work through public opinion by shaping what people know and believe about foreign politics. Public opinion, embodied in predominant political views or in election results, can have considerable influence on policymakers that need approval from the electorate.
I recently had the honor of contributing a book review on media influence on foreign policymaking to the foreign policy journal IP Global Edition, published by the German Council on Foreign Relations. I discussed three relevant books: "Unreliable Sources" by John Simpson, "The Al Jazeera Effect" by Philip Seib, and Bella Mody's analysis of "The Geopolitics of Representation in Foreign News." You can find the full review here.
- United Kingdom
- Egypt, Arab Republic of
- Middle East and North Africa
- Europe and Central Asia
- Information and Communication Technologies
- War Reporting
- Unrealiable Sources
- The Geopolitics of Representation in Foreign News
- Public Opinion
- Philip Seib
- Media Influence
- media effects
- John Simpson
- IP Global Edition
- International Public Opinion
- German Council on Foreign Relations
- Foreign Policy
- Conflict Reporting
- Book Review
- Bella Mody
- Al Jazeera Effect
Malcolm Gladwell’s piece in The New Yorker, "Small Change: Why the revolution will not be tweeted," stayed with me long after I put the carefully folded pages scribbled with my musings into the read pile on my floor. The piece deserves greater attention, meditation, rumination, which I intend to do in future blogs but for today’s blog, I want to explore his take on divide and conquer. Gladwell explores the difference between strong and weak ties in organizing and it is something that should be of the upmost importance to our readers. Decisions on organization, process, and the tools reformers engage to reach their ends are critical. "The medium, after all, is the message" - Marshall McLuhan. But it could also be that the medium signals something about the thoughtfulness of organizers and the level of commitment of participants.
Colleagues have previously argued on this blog that public opinion is a critical force in conflict transformation and peace building. It makes intuitive sense that serious assessment of the viability of peace processes requires taking stock of various societal forces -- not just the political will of elites but also the public will comprised of the preferences of various stakeholder groups.
Every morning last week I stumbled through the public foyer in the United Nations Headquarters on my way to work (which was speaking to spokespeople – a tall order). It wasn’t until Friday that I stopped to take a look at the exhibition that I had largely rushed by, running a slalom course through visiting tourists all week.